9. A Bond Unbroken

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"Reggie. Reggie – wake up—"

Regina awoke to find Dwain hovering over her. She squinted, rubbing sleep dust from her eyes. "Dwain? What...?"

"We're going," he whispered.

The words barely made sense. Shaking her head, Regina struggled to sit upright amidst the heavy blankets that had kept the both of them warm and safe against the cold night wind that blew in through the open bedroom window. She squinted at him again to find that he was on the edge of the bed frame, forced to clutch to the headboard for balance with his injured paw, out of its sling.

"Dwain, your arm–" she started, throat dull and scratchy from a dehydrated slumber.

"Me arm's dandy. Fit as a fritter. As for us, we're going," Dwain said again in a hushed tone. "Come on, grab yer poncho. The mother moon is full tonight and she'll guide us all the way to KeetoTown – come on, get up, before he hears us!"

Dwain threw a nervous glance to the bedroom door, open ajar to let the air circulate. Dim candlelight throbbed between the narrow gap between the portal frame. He threw the heavy downy covers off of Regina and pulled at her groggy body by the arm.

"Dwain, stop it – Stop!"

"Shhhht! Reggie—"

"We can't leave," she said with an annoyed sigh. "You're not yet healed."

"Don't be ridiculous, I'm an uncracked arrow, yeah. Right as a rainstorm o'r the moors." Dwain hopped off the frame to let Regina sit up on her own. She swung around, her little skunk legs dangling off the edge of the bed. She rubbed at her eyes and watched him scoop her poncho off the nearest wicker seat cushion.

"You said KeetoTown?" she asked behind a hearty yawn.

"Aye."

"But Mister Ages said—"

"Mister Ages is a schemin' ol' nutter. Ye heard what he said at the table, yeah? Maybe he'll help us, but only if we pledge our freedom to him? The mammal's a blasphemer, spoutin' off like he did about Alexia the Sage." Dwain tossed Regina her poncho.

"But he saved us." She readied herself to catch the garment, but it hit her in the chin and fell in a heap in her lap. Regina shook off the thud of the hit, and pulled the poncho up over her arms and head.

"Which I'm grateful for, yeah," said Dwain as he hopped about on one leg, attempting to get a pair of trousers on. "But he got his own idea at large. He don't care nothin' 'bout us and our salvation. What are we to him, farmhands? Slaves? No better than how the canines did to our kin? Who's t' say he won't fancy an eye on ye one of these days, yeah? What then, yeah?"

Regina didn't know what Dwain was talking about and watched in silence as he shrugged into his ruined tunic. He grabbed the chair that Regina's poncho had slept on and started to push it across the floor. But stopped at once, when shrill squeals of the legs scratching against hardwood sounded. He flexed his injured paw for a moment. Regina blinked. Just like Dwain said, it seemed good as new, all healed.

But how?

Dwain didn't seem to think much of it, however. He picked the chair up by both ends of the seat and hobbled towards the window, huffing and grunting under the weight and unsteadiness of the thing. "Rain's in the air. Can feel it between me ears. It's gonna be a soggy trek to KeetoTown, but we don't have much of a choice, yeah."

"But – but Mister Ages—"

"I tole you, Mister Ages is a liar, and we're ne'er safer with him than we is out in those woods." Dwain climbed up onto the chair cushion. Its seat shivered beneath his footpads. He pushed the window shutter wider open and gestured Regina to get a move on.

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